Yes, it's been nearly three decades that the arcade classic Dragon's Lair hit the arcades and took the fledging video game industry by storm in 1983. Seeing as how the game has been ported to nearly every platform in existence at one time or another, it was really only a matter of time until the Xbox 360 got their version, and it comes with a not-so-secret weapon, the ability to control Dirk the Daring's movements through a lethal castle in order to save the lovely (read: incredibly slutty looking) princess Daphne.
Well, you shouldn't get your hopes too high up in terms of actually controlling Dirk. The gameplay in Dragon's Lair hasn't changed at all, whether you're controlling his movements with your whole body or using the controller. It's as simple as it ever was. Dirk will encounter an obstacle, you'll be given a lightning fast prompt, and you'll either pass the obstacle or die a frankly gruesome death. That's pretty well it.
The Kinect controls generally work well, but not without some caveats. Like any other Kinect game, the motion tracking is far from flawless, but generally works, especially when it comes to jumping forward, backwards, or side to side. Arm controls are a little more wonky. The real frustration comes during the moments where you're flying a mount through pillars, and the game expects you to jump to the right three or four times in a row, until you're off the screen. Of course, once you do that, you're dead anyway. In a nice touch, an adjustable difficulty level allows you to miss a few prompts before you die. Considering the unreliability of the sensor, it's practically a requirement to play that way. Harder difficulties do away with more chances and the prompts, but the game is practically unplayable without the prompts and extra chances. The game is also playable with the controller.
There's also a two player co-operative mode that has two players hot swapping in and out every time the other player dies or completes a room. Considering death comes every half minute or so, this mode becomes far more tedious than fun. There's also leaderboards to compete on, but I couldn't be bothered to rank myself against others, and it's doubtful you will either.
The game also allows you to just sit back and watch the whole adventure without actually playing the game, which is also a nice touch. It's in this mode that you can really appreciate the artistic touch that An American Tail animator Don Bluth brought to the entire production, especially in the rotoscoped character animations and details. The animation holds up beautifully today, even if the sound design really doesn't. Dirk never speaks except in a series or grunts and screams, the sound effects are incredibly repetitive, and the music is sparse at best. Still, despite its simplistic gameplay, Dragon's Lair is easily the best looking game to come out of the 1980s.
In the end, Dragon's Lair's gameplay is too brief and dated to really make this a worthwhile purchase. While it's great for an hour or two of nostalgia the extra added modes add little to nothing to the proceedings. Furthermore, the Kinect controls can add an extra layer of frustration to an already frustrating game in certain situations, even if they generally work well overall. As far as a historical relic of a long gone era of gaming, however, this is probably the best and fully featured version of that relic. If you have some youngins in the house that need an education in the roots of video gaming, then this just might be worth your time and Microsoft points.